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Mon, Nov 12, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Paperless health-cards unveiled

SAVING MONEY AND TIME The National Health Insurance Bureau plans to provide new `smart' ID cards in order to help streamline the provision of medical services

By Chuang Chi-ting  /  STAFF REPORTER

The National Health Insurance Bureau (中央健保局) said yesterday that it would begin replacing health insurance identification cards made of paper with integrated circuit (IC) cards next year.

The bureau says the new cards will be more convenient and save the government money.

Health officials briefed President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on the plan outside an academic meeting of medical professionals held by the Formosan Medical Association (台灣醫學會).

According to the bureau, the trial replacement of the cards would

begin next July in Taipei, Penghu, Taichung and Kaohsiung. The scheme is expected to be fully implemented nationwide in May of 2003.

The new cards will digitally integrate medical certificates that authorize patients with disabilities or serious illness for a higher level of coverage. They will also permit easier access to medical records, but how this will be done and the privacy issues involved have yet to be hashed out.

Moreover, users will no longer have to replace their cards after making six visits to the hospital or clinic. Currently, those people enrolled in the National Health Insurance Plan have to replace their cards because the cards run out of stamp space after six visits.

The bureau estimated that by adopting IC cards and eliminating the frequent replacement of paper cards, it could save the bureau NT$40 billion over five years.

Chen gave a brief speech at the association meeting urging medical professionals to help the government ensure the continuous operation of the National Health Insurance Plan by efficiently managing medical resources and educating their patients about the proper reasons for seeking medical attention.

The Department of Health began to reform the health insurance plan last year and set up a special taskforce for that purpose in July, said Minister of Health Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) yesterday.

"The first thing the team is responsible for is exploring the public consensus on whether the National Health Insurance Plan is to make available social insurance or to create a social security mechanism," said Lee.

Lee was highlighting the public's belief that the National Health Insurance Plan is unlimited.

"If the consensus advocates that the plan is simply for insurance, the public must then be educated to realize that the benefit of insurance coverage is limited. Otherwise they will have to pay higher taxes to make the plan part of Taiwan's social security network," the minister said.

"Many people incorrectly regard the National Health Insurance Plan as a social security mechanism, wanting the insurance to cover every medical service but rejecting the upward adjustment of premiums," Lee said.

The health insurance premium has stood at 4.25 percent of monthly salarie since the government began to collect it in 1995.

"But the insurance is actually designed to provide essential health care rather than health care for everything and everyone."

The insurance plan has suffered a monthly deficit of NT$2 billion, on average.

People visited outpatient clinics an average of 14.6 times in 1999, which was higher than many other developed countries.

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